12 Lesson 11-國有三不祥

國有三不祥

  (《晏子春秋》)

guóyǒu sānbù xiáng     Yàn Zǐ chūnqiū

景公出獵,上山見虎,下澤見蛇 。 歸,召晏子而問之曰:“今日 寡人出獵,上山則見虎,下澤則見蛇,殆所謂不祥也?”晏子曰:“國有三不祥,是不與焉。夫有賢而不知,一不祥;知而不用,二不祥;用而不任,三不祥也。 所謂不祥,乃若此者。今上山見虎,虎之室也 ; 下澤見蛇,蛇之穴也。如虎之室,如蛇之穴,而見之,曷為不祥也!”


景公出猎,上山见虎,下泽见蛇 。 归,召晏子而问之曰:“今日寡人出猎,上山则见虎,下泽则见蛇,殆所谓不祥也?”晏子曰:“国有三不祥,是不与焉。夫有贤而不知,一不祥;知而不用,二不祥;用而不任,三不祥也。 所谓不祥,乃若此者。今上山见虎,虎之室也 ; 下泽见蛇,蛇之穴也。如虎之室,如蛇之穴,而见之,曷为不祥也!”

 

Lesson 11 vocabulary

齊(齐)景公 Qí Jǐng gōng Duke Jing of Qi (ruled 547 BC-490 BCE)
獵 (猎) liè to hunt
shàng to go up
shān mountain
xià to go down
澤 (泽) marsh
zhào to summon
晏子 Yàn Zǐ The Master Yan (Yan Ying 晏嬰)
day
今日 jin rì today
guǎ few
寡人 guǎ rén I (of feudal lords)
dài perhaps, probably, might (not)…
suǒ  [a relative pronoun object]
謂 (谓) wèi to call
xiáng lucky
與 (与) to participate; to be among
yān [a generalized pronoun, indirect object]
Now… [introducing general statement] [c.f. fū]
賢 (贤) xián good; worthy ones
the first, No. 1
yòng to employ
rèn to give responsibility or trust to
nǎi only, just
èr two; the second
shì chamber; house
xuè cave
to go to
曷為(为) hé wéi why?

《晏子春秋》  Yàn Zǐ chūnqiū

晏子 was  a political advisor of early China; several centuries after his death, a compilation of his supposed deeds and sayings were collected into the晏子春秋 (The Annals of Master Yan).  春秋 means “spring and autumn” and was used as a comprehensive term to mean “the whole year” (much the same way that  昆弟 means “brothers”).  By extension, it came to mean “annals,” “historical record” (i.e., that which took place throughout the year).

Commentary to lesson 11:

Often political philosophers, especially Confucians, attempted to persuade the rulers they served that the world operated on rational principles and that there was no such thing as magic or occult behavior. This passage is typical in showing Yanzi’s attempt to get his ruler focused on matters of statecraft and virtuous administration.

1.1: 公 was one of five titles of feudal nobility used during the Zhou Dynasty it is conventionally translated as “Duke.” The others are : 侯 (marquis), 伯 (earl), 子 (viscount), and 男 (baron). However, most titled lords were called “duke” after their deaths as a term of respect.

1.2: 寡人 is a special first-person pronoun used only by rulers.

所 is an important grammatical particle that refers to an undefined object of the verb to which it is attached; it is generally translated as “that which”, and the verb that follows it is made passive. Thus, 所謂 means “that which is called”. (Other examples: 所畫 “that which is drawn”, 所持“that which is taken”. The 所 construction often occurs in an XY 也 sentence and is used to emphasize: i.e., 我畫蛇 “I drew a snake,” but 我所畫者, 蛇也. “That which I drew was a snake.”

1.3: The negative 不 is often used as a prefix to an adjective and has the function of “un-”. Thus, 不祥, “unlucky, inauspicious.” This can be nominalized, as occurs later in this text: 三不祥 “three unlucky [things].”

We’ve already seen 焉 as a generalized place-word pronoun meaning “there” (lesson three). It can also replace a general indirect object; in such situations it stands for 於之 and is generally translated as “with it (him, her, them).” Since 與 here is used as a verb, “to be among,” leave the “with” out when translating.

Grammar Note 10

1. Conditional sentences and 則 zé. In earlier lessons we saw a number of passages in which one sentence or independent clause followed another, apparently with some connection in meaning, although that connection was inexplicit, i.e. not specified by any conjunction: a typical example of Classical Chinese laconism. Mostly these sentences had to be read as conditional in expositive discourse, with the sense if X, then Y, and as temporal or conditional in narrative discourse:

conditional                                                    consequence

子能更鳴,                                                       可矣

zǐ néng gēng míng,                                         kě yǐ

[IF] you can change your cry                         [THEN] it will be okay

數人飲之                                                            不足

shù rén yǐn zhī                                                  bùzú

[IF] several people drink it                              [THEN] it won’t be enough

子以我為不信,                                                  吾為子先行

zǐ yǐ wǒ wéi bú xìn,                                             wú wèi zǐ xiān xíng

[IF] you take me for insincere                         [THEN] I’ll go first for you

軍中有敢諫者                                                       罪至死

jūn zhōng yǒu gǎn jiàn zhě                              zuì zhì sǐ

[IF] any one in the army dares remonstrate [THEN] his punishment will go (as far as) death.

In Classical Chinese the conditional relationship isn’t necessarily inexplicit. It can, for example, be specified by placing the conjunction 則 zé “then” at the beginning of the second clause:

有以解之                                                              則可

yǒu yǐ jiě zhī                                                         zé kě

[IF] you’ve got a way to explain it                   THEN it will do

無以解之                                                               則死

wú yǐ jiě zhī                                                          zé sǐ

[IF] you haven’t got a way to explain it,         THEN you die

It would be possible to specify the relationship even more strongly with a conjunction opening the first clause, or both clauses:

使汝無以解之                                                                     則死

shǐ rǔ wú yǐ jiě zhī                                                             zé sǐ

IF (supposing) you haven’t got a way to explain it,    THEN you die

Note that where paired conjunctions or like expressions can be used, with senses such as’ if … then’, ‘ when … then’, ‘ because … therefore’, ‘ not only … but also’, English rarely omits both expressions except in aphorisms, or catch-phrase such as “waste not”. want not. If one of the expressions is to be omitted in English it is normally the second: if at first you don’t succeed, try. try again (omitting then). In Classical Chinese one normally omits both, or at least the first; to omit the second, or neither, is more unusual, and, therefore emphatic. Thus in 使汝狗白而往,黑而來… shǐ rǔ gǒu bái ér wǎng, hēi ér lái… “IF your dog were white when it went, black when it returned, [THEN]…” 使shǐ draws attention to this unusual condition.

Note also that in narrative discourse, 則 zé is more likely meant temporal rather than conditional:

上山                                                                              則見虎

shàng shān                                                                  zé jiàn hǔ

[WHEN] I went up the mountain                             THEN I saw the tiger

2. The pronoun 所 suǒ. Classical Chinese has two pronouns used only as objects. These are 之 zhī “him, her, it, them” and 所 suǒ “which, that, whom”. Of course, 之 zhī appears in regular object position following the verb,6 but 所 suǒ always precedes the verbs to which it is object. Thus, 謂之不詳 wèi zhī bù xiáng “call it unlucky” becomes 所謂不詳 suǒ wèi bù xiáng “what is called unlucky”.

6 except where a negative, or an interrogative pronoun, shift it before the verb.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Introduction to Classical Chinese by Patrick Hanan; David Lattimore; Judith Zeitlin; Margaret Baptist Wan; Anthony George; Xiaofei Tian; Regina Llamas; Hu Hsiao-chen; Liu Lening; Paul Rouzer; Shang Wei; Andrew Schonebaum; and Kong Mei is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book